Policy: Entitlements

Senate GOP demands Gang of Ocho detail their welfare spending

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Congress,Conn Carroll,Immigration,Senate,Entitlements

There may be wide-spread disagreement in the conservative movement about which issues the Republican Party should evolve on, but there is one stance that no one on the right is backing down from: the federal government must spend less money.

So it is no surprise that cost has become an early point of contention between those Republicans who want to grant citizenship to the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country today, and those Republicans who would prefer a different strategy. The Gang of Ocho has so far been unclear about who exactly would qualify for what welfare programs under their immigration framework, so today, Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Jeff Sessions, R-Ala, and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., sent the Republican members of the group (Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.) a letter demanding welfare spending details. Specifically they asked:

1. Please list all federal benefits, means-tested aid, and other assistance programs explicitly denied to illegal immigrants during their probationary status.
2. Please list all federal benefits and aid programs former illegal immigrants become eligible for once granted green cards, or permanent residency.
3. Please provide an estimate of the cost to taxpayers in the first full 10-year window after illegal immigrants are granted green cards and become eligible for federal assistance.
4. Please provide an estimate of the cost to taxpayers in the first full 10 years of citizenship, including the costs of chain migration.
5. Please provide an estimate of the increase in cost to our nation’s long-term unfunded obligations, including Medicare, Social Security, and Obamacare, of a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrant population. This should be the recognized 75-year window.
6. Please provide the specific language your legislation includes to ensure enforcement of the currently unenforced section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
7. Please provide our offices, which have the relevant expertise to analyze fiscal effects, any legislative language concerning the aforementioned questions.

You can read a full copy of the letter below:

Dear Colleagues:

A primary concern related to a large-scale legalization of illegal immigrants is the long-term cost for taxpayers. The public comments from your group have created confusion. We therefore write to seek your clarification and to obtain concrete information about the long-term costs that will be imposed on taxpayers once millions of illegal immigrants eventually become eligible not only for our nation’s major entitlements but approximately 80 different means-tested welfare and low-income assistance programs.

As we discovered through several oversight requests from the Agriculture, Budget, and Judiciary Committees, existing federal immigration law designed to protect taxpayers is not enforced by this administration. One of the biggest challenges facing any reform of our nation’s immigration laws is the refusal of this administration to enforce the laws already on the books. That background is attached to this letter.

According to the framework released by your group, illegal aliens would not be eligible for certain benefits during a period of probationary status. The rejection of that principle by the Democrat members of your group during a vote on an amendment to the budget raises significant concern. Moreover, even if the bill does contain strong, loophole-free language to this effect, it will only succeed in delaying—not reducing—the cost to taxpayers. In addition, a work requirement as a condition of amnesty would do little to nothing to protect taxpayers over the long term.

Once the present illegal population receives green cards, they will be eligible under current law for a wide array of federal welfare programs including food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Medicaid. By their very nature, these programs necessarily represent a net fiscal cost to taxpayers. The long-term costs, and the strain on resources for low-income Americans, could be enormous. This was contemplated by lawmakers when crafting and then reaffirming the public charge statute in 1996. These fiscal costs could grow once today’s illegal population is granted citizenship, and could include substantial costs imposed on Medicare and Social Security as low-income former illegal immigrants retire and draw benefits in excess of what they paid into those programs.

Given these concerns and our congressional oversight responsibilities, we therefore ask that you provide the following information regarding the long-term costs of your bill:

  1. Please list all federal benefits, means-tested aid, and other assistance programs explicitly denied to illegal immigrants during their probationary status.
  2. Please list all federal benefits and aid programs former illegal immigrants become eligible for once granted green cards, or permanent residency.
  3. Please provide an estimate of the cost to taxpayers in the first full 10-year window after illegal immigrants are granted green cards and become eligible for federal assistance.
  4. Please provide an estimate of the cost to taxpayers in the first full 10 years of citizenship, including the costs of chain migration.
  5. Please provide an estimate of the increase in cost to our nation’s long-term unfunded obligations, including Medicare, Social Security, and Obamacare, of a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrant population. This should be the recognized 75-year window.
  6. Please provide the specific language your legislation includes to ensure enforcement of the currently unenforced section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  7. Please provide our offices, which have the relevant expertise to analyze fiscal effects, any legislative language concerning the aforementioned questions.

Finally, we ask that you commit to us that you will seek an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that examines your legislation’s long-term impact on the Federal budget before any member is asked to vote on the bill in committee or on the Senate floor.

Thank for your attention to this matter. It is essential that we have answers to these questions before any legislation is unveiled so that the public can be informed and provide input.

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